Extensions are on the rise, and loft extensions are one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to add space and value to a home.
With a volatile housing market and the often exorbitant costs of moving, more people than ever are embracing the mantra ‘don’t move, improve’, and discovering extension ideas such as loft, basement conversions and side returns can give their homes a whole new dimension, and a serious boost in value.
Which kind of extension you go for depends very much on individual needs, as well as the age, location and design of your home, but loft extensions are one of the most popular, and one of the cheapest. ‘Typically, converted lofts provide an additional bedroom, though they can also be used as a home office or less traditional workplace such as a yoga studio,’ says Mark Ruthven of architecture practice Studio Mark Ruthven. ‘But lofts often have somewhat limited headroom so do not work so well as, for example, a home gym. A loft conversion in a typical terraced house should provide sufficient space for a bedroom and a small shower or bathroom.’
Ruthven says natural light is an important issue with loft extension. He advises adding a dormer widow, usually to at the back of the house: ‘That’s often not possible on the front, and if it is it would usually be subject to planning permission,’ he says. The roof of the infill extension may also be fully glazed or have inserted roof lights so that is doesn’t cut off light to other rooms in the house.
As well as creating a new bedroom or home office, Ruthven says clever use of the eaves space left over after the loft conversion can provide much needed room for storage. In terms of the design, the new steel structure that is inserted to facilitate the loft conversion can be left partially exposed to provide an interesting design feature.
Nick Scannell of Belsize Architects says most homes are suitable for loft extensions. ‘If there’s enough space then the home is usually suitable,’ he says. ‘Sometimes it takes a bit of imagination, but there are always options. Obviously bigger houses are better suited, as the conversion can offer more pleasant spaces to live in.
‘By law there is a restriction of 2.3m minimum height at the highest point and, if feasible, the creation of a dormer window will also increase the usable area.’
Scannell says getting permission for loft extensions isn’t usually a problem: ‘Should the loft be part of a house, the client might want to consider applying for lawful development, which may be easier to obtain than full planning permission.’
Although lofts don’t usually provide as much space as basements, they are usually cheaper and often less hassle to create. ‘Basements can be a great addition in terms of area but can be expensive, says Scannell. They are also trickier in terms of waterproofing and require a more complicated set of information to be submitted, such as hydrological and soil reports.
’ To get the most out of your loft extension, Ruthven and Scannell advise consulting an architect with plenty of experience of these kinds of projects.
If done right, Scannell says that, ‘simple loft conversions are actually the most economically viable solution to incorporate additional habitable rooms to your home’.
But Scannell says that all kinds of extensions are becoming more popular. ‘Stamp duty, estate agents’ fees, exorbitant house prices and a lack of housing generally means many people who perhaps would have moved in the past to find more space are staying put and seeing what can be done with what they have. That way you get the additional space you’re after and it’s an investment.’